Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Bath cleanup plan hints at development

Maine Today
November 6, 2007

The trust that owns the Coal Pocket is silent, but plans on file with the city suggest imminent action.

By DENNIS HOEY Staff Writer November 6, 2007

BATH — The first indications that a major development could be
coming to the city's waterfront will be addressed tonight at a
meeting of the Bath Planning Board.

Central Maine Power Co. will seek city approval to remove
contaminated soil from what city officials say was once the site
of a primitive power plant that produced electricity by burning

Manufactured-gas plants such as that of the former Bath &
Brunswick Power and Light company operated in towns and
cities from the early 1800s to the mid-1900s.

The Bath plant operated for 80 years.

CMP owned the Bath gas works for 15 years -- between 1920
and 1935 -- but is not the site's potential developer.

The so-called Coal Pocket, which has been vacant for decades, is
owned by a Portsmouth, N.H.-based trust.

"I don't think the owner would be doing this unless he had
something in mind for that site," said James Upham, the city's
planning director.

Most of the city's prime waterfront is concentrated along
Commercial Street. Currently, a small fishing supply retailer and
the Kennebec Tavern restaurant are the only businesses
operating year-round on the Kennebec River.

Bathport is largely vacant, after developers announced this
month that they would not be tearing the building down to make
room for 24 upscale condominium homes.

Also, the former BFC Marine, which moved its operations to
Woolwich, is for sale, according to a sign on the window.

The Coal Pocket -- at 4.6 acres -- is the largest vacant parcel of
land left on the river side of Commercial Street and for years has
been the subject of speculation about what might be developed

Sean Mahoney, spokesman for the David F. Mahoney Trust, did
not return phone calls Monday. However, plans on file at the
city's Planning Department Office show that the trust appears to
have an interest in developing the Coal Pocket.

In its plans, CMP says it will clean up the site to allow for a
mixed-use development that might include residential and
commercial spaces featuring homes, offices, retail shops,
restaurants and a marina.

That's all the detail the city can provide now, Upham said,
because the Mahoney Trust has not filed a development plan
with the city.

Upham said the site needs to be remediated before anything
else can happen on the property.

If the Planning Board approves, the cleanup could take eight to
10 weeks, according to CMP spokesman John Carroll. The
cleanup would cost about $1 million.

"We're involved because we were the last company to own and
operate the gas works," Carroll said.

Bath & Brunswick Power and Light burned coal, a process that
produced volatile gases that were stored in giant gas holders.
Underground lines extended from the holders, which provided
the energy to power street lamps and home appliances.

The Bath company began operations in the early 1850s. Even
though CMP's involvement ended 70 years ago, Carroll said it
has an obligation to clean up the land.

The Kennebec Wharf and Coal Co. bought the site from CMP in
1937, but that company no longer exists.

The Mahoney Trust conducted a recent environmental
assessment of the Coal Pocket that showed there is coal tar
residue in the soil, but that it poses no risk to the public's

Carroll said CMP has agreed since then to remove that soil under
Maine's Voluntary Response Action Program.

"This is something that Central Maine Power has done in a
number of different communities. It's a historical obligation that
we won't back away from," Carroll said.

Tonight's Planning Board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. at City

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be reached at 725-8795 or at


Copyright © 2007 Blethen Maine Newspapers

No comments: